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Group plans to defend Salamonie from logging

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SHOW: Aaron Goulet points out a tree that will be cut once the logging begins in Salamonie State Forest.
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MARKED: Trees that will be cut in the logging process are marked with blue. However, smaller trees surrounding them could be taken out in the process as well.

BY HEATHER COX - hcox@h-ponline.com

In 2014, the Indiana Division of Forestry introduced plans to log 31 percent of 121 acres of the Salamonie State Forest.

Since then, Friends of the Salamonie Forest, a citizen-led group that started about a month ago, has set out to preserve and protect the forest for this generation and for future generations. Their first goal, is to minimize the size and impact of the logging project that is set to take place sometime in the spring of 2019.

Aaron Goulet, a member of the Friends of the Salamonie Forest group, said the logging is part of a 20 year plan. He explained that the division of forestry is removing the pine to allow the hardwood forest to regenerate.

He went on to point out, however, that a large portion of the trees marked for cutting do not include pine, as the hardwood forest has already made a comeback and the pine trees are dying out on their own. Goulet even noted that only 29 percent of the trees harvested will be pine.

“We feel it’s unnecessary to log at the scale that they’re logging because the forest is already doing what it does, which is regenerate,” Goulet said.

Goulet said the forestry division’s funding was cut quite a few years ago, so one way they fund their operations is through logging. He noted that logging has increased by 400 percent since the mid-2000s.

Additionally, the 31 percent of the 121 acres being logged does not include the Timber Stand Improvement project, which Goulet said is when trees are cut down, girdled or culled if they are considered undesirable.

One issue with the logging, Goulet explained, is that trees that are marked for cut will not be the only trees cut. As mentioned earlier, trees that are considered undesirable, as well as trees that surround the marked trees will also end up cut or affected.

The lack of trees will then open the canopy of the forest resulting in an abundance of invasive plants such as Asian Honeysuckle.

“It’s dramatically going to open up this forest floor. I’ve seen pictures of Yellowwood after they did what they call a single tree selection like what they’re doing here and it’s all overgrown with briars and honeysuckle and everything else,” Goulet said. “And the trails will be impassable for quite a few years because it’s all going to be briars and brush. Even back here already without it being opened up you have some Asian honeysuckle. You open this up even more, this stuff is going to flourish.”

Through the Friends of Salamonie Forest, Goulet said they are hoping to raise awareness as well as talk about strategies for protecting the forest, which includes calling the ultimate decision makers, such as governors and state representatives. Goulet even referenced a bill that has been introduced a few times that would set aside at least one percent of all state forests for wilderness and protection from logging -- right now, none of it is protected.

As for why the group believes protecting the forest is important, Goulet said it’s because there’s nothing else like Salamonie Forest, as hardwood forests of any size are practically gone in northern Indiana.

“There’s two ways of looking at a forest. A lot of people look at it and they see board feed of timber for sale. Or they look at the forest and they see a unique and thriving ecosystem that deserves to be protected,” he said. “... there is state park quality going on here and it’s the largest hardwood forest in northern Indiana by far. One of only two public forests in Northern Indiana.”

Additionally, Goulet said the public forests are funded by citizens’ tax money and they have a right to have a voice and a say in what happens to the forest. He explained that an impact is only made through the actions of concerned citizens.

“It’s going to take ordinary people with a passion for this place to have a chance of stopping the plans,” he said.

Thirty people met together to form Friends of Salamonie Forest on September 5 and the first official meeting for the group is scheduled for October 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Huntington City-Township Public Library.

Goulet said there is no membership and anyone interested can show up. For more information, people are encouraged to email friendsofsalamonieforest@gmail.com or visit the Friends of Salamonie Forest Facebook page.